This 1987 date teams the iconoclastic pianist with guitarist Bill Frisell, drummer Paul Motian, and British saxophonist John Surman. While it's easy to argue that, with Manfred Eicher's icy, crystalline production, this was a stock date for both the artists and the label, that argument would be flat wrong. Bley was looking for a new lyricism in his own playing and in his compositions. He was coming from a different place than the large harmonies offered by augmented and suspended chords and writing for piano trios. The other band members – two other extremely lyrical improvisers in Surman and Frisell.
Ballads, which really seems to make ballads out of ballads, has been considered both worthy of hanging on the museum wall alongside the other masterpieces and being accorded special merit as the jazz record most used for background music. Since no less a genius than the great French composer Erik Satie invented the concept of background music, this might not be such a contradiction or insult. Only the short "Circles" invites a real comparison with the piano music of Satie; elsewhere you're in extremely extended territory, Paul Bley's desire to play the slowest music in history meshing with a new style of rhythm section accompaniment that sounds like everything from tuning the drums to adjusting the drapes.
Pianist Paul Bley was touring Scandinavia with a quartet made up of longtime associate Gary Peacock on bass and two brilliant British musicians, drummer Tony Oxley and John Surman on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, when they made this Oslo recording in 1991. Rather than a conventionally organized quartet session, the CD consists of seven largely improvised solos, three duets, and two tracks–the collectively improvised "Interface" and Surman's "Article Four"–with the full quartet. Even more unusual is the frequent emphasis on bass frequencies and slow, even solemn, tempos. Only extraordinary musicians could keep such a format interesting, and these four do, exploring room resonance with almost ceremonial levels of concentration.
Gary Peacock shares front-cover billing with Paul Bley on this 1970 session, but drummer Paul Motian is also present on the first five tracks. (Billy Elgart replaces Motian on the remaining three.) There's a curiously straight-ahead, tempo-driven feel to this short and sweet disc, quite unlike the free aesthetic that Bley, Peacock, and Motian put forward when they returned to ECM as a trio on 1999's Not Two, Not One.
This trio date is dedicated to the music of Annette Peacock, former wife of both pianist Paul Bley and bassist Gary Peacock. While Bley is the undisputed leader on this date (as he has recorded many of these pieces before), it is flügelhorn and trumpet player Franz Koglmann who arranged them in such an exquisite manner. The majority of the pieces included here were originally composed as songs. They were vehicles for expressing the interior, haunted world that Ms. Peacock inhabits and featured her lilting, edgy voice, which slips and slithers through her deceptively simple melodies before erupting into a shriek of ecstasy or pain.
RIP Paul Bley. In memory of Paul Bley. Paul Bley, a jazz pianist whose thoughtful but intuitive commitment to advanced improvisation became widely influential, died of natural causes Sunday. He was 83. This duet set by pianist Paul Bley and guitarist Sonny Greenwich, after two melodic solos by Greenwich and Bley's feature on "Arrival," becomes a loose bop session. "Meandering" is a blues and, in the tradition of Lennie Tristano, the origins of the originals "Willow" and "You Are" are not too difficult to figure out. The music does meander a bit but mostly swings in a floating way. Although there are some freer moments, this is as straight as Paul Bley has played on records in years and Sonny Greenwich also sounds fairly conservative, at least if one does not listen too closely. It's a relaxed and very interesting set.
That pianist Paul Bley, reedman Evan Parker, and bassist Barre Phillips had never played as a group before flipping the coin of Time Will Tell matters little. Whether you call heads or tails, you win. The fact that Phillips had played with the two who hadn’t emerges through the sensitive approach he elicits from each. By the same token, one cannot simply say that he tempers what we might be expecting from two powerhouses of the free improv universe. Rather, he spotlights the tenderness already flowing within.